Then ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him…
…They replied, “The man questioned us closely about ourselves and our family. ‘Is your father still living?’ he asked us. ‘Do you have another brother?’ We simply answered his questions. How were we to know he would say, ‘Bring your brother down here’?”…
…Now Joseph gave these instructions to the steward of his house: “Fill the men’s sacks with as much food as they can carry, and put each man’s silver in the mouth of his sack. Then put my cup, the silver one, in the mouth of the youngest one’s sack, along with the silver for his grain.” And he did as Joseph said.
As morning dawned, the men were sent on their way with their donkeys. They had not gone far from the city when Joseph said to his steward, “Go after those men at once, and when you catch up with them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid good with evil? Isn’t this the cup my master drinks from and also uses for divination? This is a wicked thing you have done.’”
When he caught up with them, he repeated these words to them. But they said to him, “Why does my lord say such things? Far be it from your servants to do anything like that! We even brought back to you from the land of Canaan the silver we found inside the mouths of our sacks. So why would we steal silver or gold from your master’s house? If any of your servants is found to have it, he will die; and the rest of us will become my lord’s slaves.”
“Very well, then,” he said, “let it be as you say. Whoever is found to have it will become my slave; the rest of you will be free from blame.”
Each of them quickly lowered his sack to the ground and opened it. Then the steward proceeded to search, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest. And the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. At this, they tore their clothes. Then they all loaded their donkeys and returned to the city. Genesis 42:3-4, 43:7, 44:1-13 (NIV)
If you like comic books or movies, the sage words of Uncle Ben to young Peter Parker are probably familiar to you, “With great power comes great responsibility.” The two go hand in hand—or they should. Many people enjoy the great power but try and shirk the responsibility.
If you are a dreams do come true person, you’ll like Genesis 42-44. Joseph’s brothers do bow down to him. Joseph makes them squirm. It seems right—as a group, Joseph’s brothers were terrible people—they deserved a little heat from the brother they wronged.
I don’t know about you but a superficial read of these chapters makes Joseph look like a bit of a jerk. Joseph recognized his brothers immediately. Joseph assimilated in to Egyptian culture, speaking Egyptian and 20 years older was unrecognizable to his brothers. Joseph could have skipped to the end at the first meeting. Instead, Joseph put his brothers through some gut wrenching tests.
Back to a movie quote. If you like Sci-fi, you are probably familiar with Kahn’s question to Captain Kirk at the end of Star Trek II, “You know the Klingon proverb, ‘Revenge is a dish best served cold.’?” It’s actually a quote from French literature in 1800’s but the truth still stands. Revenge is best when those who deserve it get it after a long wait, when it’s unsuspected.
That is the example Joseph has to offer us today. Joseph’s convoluted method seemed mean but his actions had a purpose. That purpose was not revenge. That makes Joseph different.
Let’s work through this equation. Let’s say, your bothers sold you to some slave traders who took you to a distant country. Although a good master purchased you, you remained a slave. Then, your master’s wife lied and you were imprisoned. The prisoner who could get you released forgets to mention you and you stay in jail for 2 more years. THEN—one day you stand in front of Pharaoh and he tells you about his dreams. Suddenly, you become the second most powerful person in the world. A couple of years after that, after royalty and privilege become the norm—your evil, terrible brothers who sold you to the Ishmaelite-traders are bowing in front of you.
I don’t know about you—perhaps your heart is more pure than mine—I’d be tempted to grind on my brothers. Those brothers owed Joseph some skin. They made him suffer just because they were jealous. It would be payback time if I were standing in Joseph’s shoes. The funny thing is, if that happened, we would cheer for Joseph. He deserved it—Joseph deserved his revenge.
Joseph decided to be different.
When asked, “How do you define what being a Christian is?” My friend so aptly answered, “Acting in unusual ways.” Ways so unusual that non-believer can’t help but notice. What qualifies as unusual?
- Loving your enemy.
- Doing good to those who do evil to you.
- Being generous to those who don’t “deserve” generosity.
- Being patient, kind, gentle, meek…
You get the picture.
That is what Joseph did. That’s the example for you and me. Paul had not written the words yet, but Joseph acted them out:
Never pay back evil with more evil.
Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Romans 12:17 (NLT)
Let me change Uncle Ben’s quote; With great responsibility, comes great power. The believer’s responsibility is to forgive in the same way God forgives—totally and freely. Forgiveness is powerful. Forgiveness is not a feeling—it’s an action. Forgiveness empowers the one offering it to live a life free of bitterness, pain and resentment.
Forgiveness makes the believer unusual.
Father, help me be unusual today. When my desires well up in my heart, remind me of the forgiveness You gave to me when I deserved only punishment. Make me different. Make me a light to those in darkness.
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